Ceasefire observers deploy in three Yemeni provinces to monitor truce

People tour a graveyard for Houthi fighters killed in recent fighting, during the first day of a ceasefire in Yemen's capital Sanaa. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

CAIRO (Reuters) - Local ceasefire monitors arrived at three Yemeni provinces on Wednesday to consolidate a shaky truce, residents and officials said, ahead of U.N.-sponsored peace talks scheduled to start in Kuwait next week. Over 6,200 people have been killed in a year of fighting between forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthis, a conflict pitting the Yemeni allies of Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, against those of Iran. Local officials said teams of 12 monitors were deployed in Marib province east of the capital Sanaa, in southwestern Taiz province and in Hajjah province in the north to try to stop truce violations and allow humanitarian aid to pass through. The monitors - officers and tribal figures from among the Houthis and followers of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, along with Hadi's government - would also try to resolve problems and record complaints of violations and send them to a higher committee working under United Nations supervision. The deployment comes amid fresh reports of violations by both sides of the truce that began at midnight on Sunday. Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam had said local committees would be deployed in six provinces where fighting had been taking place. Apart from Marib, Hajjah and Taiz, monitors would also be deployed in Shabwa, al-Bayda and Dalea provinces in southern and central Yemen. Abdel-Salam, in remarks to the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper published on Wednesday, said the Houthis regard the truce "as a step towards a complete halt to the war" in Yemen. Officials say they see the truce as the best chance for Yemen to end a year of fighting that has drawn in a Saudi-led alliance to fight what they see as Iran's expansion into the Arabian Peninsula. Iran supports the Houthis, a political group with a powerful militia that belongs to the Zaydi branch of Shi'ite Islam. Previous ceasefire agreements failed to end fighting that began in March last year after the Houthis advanced on Hadi's headquarters in the southern port city of Aden, forcing the president and his government to flee to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and the Houthi group have observed a period of calm along their common border since last month, paving the way for the truce to be reached. U.N.-sponsored peace talks are set to begin on April 18 in Kuwait, bringing together the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government. (Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Cairo and Celine Aswad in Dubai; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Tom Heneghan)